Swim Guide returns for a sixth year this weekend

Sound Rivers' Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register takes a water sample to test for bacteria.
Sound Rivers' Water Quality Specialist Taylor Register takes a water sample to test for bacteria.(Sound Rivers)
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 4:17 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) - Sound Rivers, an environmental nonprofit, will launch its 6th summer-long program that lets people know where it’s safe to swim in local waterways.

The program covers a large portion of the state, spanning from the Piedmont to the Pamlico Sound.

“Swim Guide is one of our longest-running and most successful annual programs. It’s successful because it easily provides public access to important public health information, and water-quality data and engages the communities within our watersheds,” said Clay Barber, Sound Rivers’ program director.

The group says they will monitor 54 popular swimming areas along the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds. The water in each will be tested weekly for E. coli in fresh water and enterococci in salt water.

“The Tar-Pam and the Neuse rivers are clean and safe to recreate in under normal conditions, but anytime it rains, more pollutants make their way to our rivers and we can usually predict where the worst areas are going to be — and our Swim Guide testing confirms it,” Barber said. “It’s always a good idea to wait 24 hours after a hard rain before recreating in any waterway. We can safely say that downstream of heavily developed areas is usually going to be dirty after a rain.”

Sound Rivers says sites are given a pass-or-fail designation based on federal and state water-quality standards. Those that do not pass will have an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections in both people and their pets.

Of the 54 sites being monitored, 23 are in the Tar-Pamlico River basin.